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Last month, my awesome SIL Dannii was visiting and spotted some caterpillars feeding on our newly planted lime tree. Dannii, being an arborist and having a real love for all things related to insects and horticulture, helped contain some for the little ones for us all to observe. Dannii explained to us how we could watch them turn into a butterfly in a relatively short time and so we decided to do this as a project. I've had quite a few people asking about the steps we followed (when I shared this on our FB Page) so thought I'd share with you here in a post.


* Find yourself a caterpillar ideally sunning itself on some citrus leaves ;)

* Get a plastic container (like a disposable Chinese food container) and make some breathing holes in the lid.

* Add some citrus leaves into the container and a few small twigs for them to crawl along. * Clean out the caterpillar poop every second day. Refresh the leaves while you are at it.


* You might begin to see a change in colour. * Try and ensure the caterpillar has to opportunity to begin to become a pupa by attaching itself to a twig. Learn about the chrysalis and other terms HERE. * Once there is a change in colour, and it has attached itself by a silky thread to a twig, there is no need to supply your caterpillar with new leaves. They will be heading into hibernation mode!


* Creating a little tent for your caterpillar is important. You can purchase a BUTTERFLY TENT for this purpose, can use a POP-UP CLOTHES HAMPER LIKE THIS ONE or you can use a well-ventilated jar like we did.

Here are the steps we took to create our jar-tent:

* Dannii guided the little ones with drilling holes into the empty Moccona jar lid. * We collected small twigs that would fit into the jar as a kind of tepee stand. * We balanced the twig with the caterpillar's chrysalis attached so it could lie horizontally.


Leave the chrysalis in its jar in a well ventilated area. Ours lived on top of the piano which is out of direct sunlight but in a place we frequently walk past so we could (hopefully!) notice any changes or progress. It's truly amazing to witness this stage. The caterpillar, once brightly coloured and spotty now transforms itself to be a camouflaged version and blend in with the twig it's sleeping on. This alone is great to discuss with the kids. Why do they think the caterpillar does this? What would happen if it was resting on a twig but was still brightly coloured? (A. It would be an easy prey/target for birds and others insects but the chrysalis offers protection to it as it does the work inside to prepare to undergo it's biggest change).


In roughly 2 weeks (sometimes a little more), you might notice that the chrysalis changes once again. One end might look a little like it's lighter and a different colour to the rest. One end might look darker. Look for any movements. Soon your butterfly will be emerging just like ours did. Watch the vid below to see it hatching!


Of course, after 'growing' and 'hatching' your beautiful butterfly, releasing it is important. It will need to dry its wings for a couple of hours and then it will be ready to take off. Watch our video of our butterfly release below.


You might want to get your kiddo to document the journey your caterpillar takes. If so, you might find these printables helpful. Please credit That Homeschoool Life if you do use and share this. Thanks!

Project Hatching a Butterfly (2)
Download PDF • 3.30MB

For homeschoolers wanting to read a little more with their kiddos, I'd highly recommend Nuri' Mass' WONDERLAND OF NATURE which you can purchase from Anthony at LIVING BOOK PRESS. There are some beautiful pages on the Swallow Tail. Our kids love this book.

We currently have another 4 to hatch in our butterfly tent!

Please let us know if you do this activity following these steps that my SIL has helped us undertake. Thank you Dannii for all your help! More soon! Lusi x

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I just found 'baby' swallowtail caterpillars on our neighbour's lime tree - they are away for a few weeks. So will eagerly watch and wait and maybe 'harvest' them before our neighbours come home. Thanks for these tips L and co😀

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